Canberra driving: its a jungle out there

BundahBoy 30 June 2010 60

Firstly thanks to the Riot Act team for throwing together a cracking forum. It truly helps to exorcise that itchy Canberra rant.

Im born and bred Canberra but left to live overseas around 12 years ago. Ive just returned to do what I promised myself never to do: work in the Public Service. High-five!

I came back to enjoy the many rosey-tinted recollections of the Berra that I had carried along my travels: the quality of the air, wide open spaces you dont find in most cities, the proximity to the snow and the coast and three lanes of empty roads in every direction. Thanks for the memories.

But what happened to three lanes of empty road bliss I remember so fondly? Peak hour in the ACT (or the ‘Public Service grand-prix’ as my boss calls it) is pure madness and Canberra PSGP drivers really take it up a notch. Big statement I know considering I’ve driven through Delhi on a motorbike, but in the last three months I have never been so defensive behind the wheel.

Whats with the people that drive at 40km in 80km zones and when you try to overtake them they accelerate in an attempt to run you off the road, or into a tree, or both? What about being Tailgated at high speed so close that you cant see their headlights but they dont overtake you, is that fun for them? Or drivers that pull out in front of you at the very last minute that don’t even bother checking to see if you’re there? And people with their indicators always on! Dear oh dear I could go on and on.

And after all the crazed public servants who have competed for a podium place have made it home alive, the empty roads are stalked late night by drunk/stoned/tripping bogans in early model Commodore sedans on the run from the coppers.

Anyways, over dramatics aside, can anyone enlighten me on why they think the common Canberra driver is so bad? I should know, I am (or was) one. But I got nothing.

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60 Responses to Canberra driving: its a jungle out there
BimboGeek BimboGeek 11:04 am 14 Jul 10

claireinqbn said :

Oh, and this forum is great – whoever thought of it and constructed it should be knighted, if such were possible.

I’m campaigning to have Johnboy named Australian of the Year. Running a good website does much more for the thousands of readers than plenty of other people have been given honours for! 😉

p1 p1 9:52 am 14 Jul 10

Public servants are also causing high petrol and cigarette prices by driving up demand.

rosscoact rosscoact 9:11 am 14 Jul 10

westyonline said :

PUBLIC SERVANTS CAN’T DRIVE VERY WELL…no more needs to be said!

I find the candlestick makers much worse than the public servants

buzz819 buzz819 9:08 am 14 Jul 10

Thumper said :



come on, just one will do?

My drive to work yesterday morning

Thumper Thumper 8:40 am 14 Jul 10



come on, just one will do?

westyonline westyonline 9:04 pm 13 Jul 10

PUBLIC SERVANTS CAN’T DRIVE VERY WELL…no more needs to be said!

claireinqbn claireinqbn 2:09 pm 13 Jul 10

Mmm. I would be more worried about people who drive at 80kph in 40 zones than the other way around. I haven’t witnessed that (yet!) but there are a lot of young men in a hurry in this town (and women, too – girls seem to think it’s cool to emulate boys’ bad habits these days, behind the wheel and otherwise, which I find tragic).

The roadworks are irritating – especially in Anzac Parade, which is on my route to work – does anyone know what they’re actually doing there, or is it one of those projects that’s been going for several generations and whose purpose has been forgotten? And the road surfaces are generally poor – potholes and rough edges everywhere, in Queanbeyan and Canberra. And speaking of Queanbeyan roads, the only bumpfest around town to get a resurface lately is Crawford Street. The stretch where the council offices are. Yes, nowhere else.

Having said that, I’ve driven in London, Johannesburg and Sydney and I’d rather be a Canberra driver any day of the week. And Canberrans are lovely as well. Oh, and this forum is great – whoever thought of it and constructed it should be knighted, if such were possible.

Palifox Palifox 5:05 pm 11 Jul 10

Canberra drivers bad? Road death rates per 10,000 registered vehicles, per 1,000,000 population or per billion person kilometres (all per year) can be found on the internet, even Wikipedia lists them. Australia is one of the safest places in the world to be on the roads and the ACT is the safest jurisdiction in Australia most years. This incidentally gives the lie to most of the crap handed out by government agencies about road safety.

Sure there are tailgaters and those whose indicators are permanently broken, even some speeders. Some of us can’t merge. There are even a few whose indicators seem to permanently signal left turns. But I have yet to see the bizarre behavior here that I have seen in some country towns, such as car driven blithely on the wrong side of a divided road or right turning behind a vehicle at a stop sign.

WTF... WTF... 1:31 am 10 Jul 10

I agree enforcement is an issue however how do you enforce the road rules when the popo is going job to job dealing with thieves and the like and not being able to devote the time to traffic enforcement. A lot of drivers in Canberra drive with their head up their arse and have no regard for other road users. Surely people must take responsibility for their own actions…I know I know wishfull thinking!! For those who dont have a solid grasp of the road rules in this day and age with google..there is no excuse surely….Good on the Police for doing what they do, you have plenty of support in the community.

Instead of whinning and putting forth uneducated solutions have a think about it , do some research and then speak. If in doubt go and see the guys at TISC and they will sort you straight.

excharny excharny 1:10 am 08 Jul 10

I think Canberra drivers are unique. I grew up in Canberra, but moved to Sydney 10yrs ago and i have driven all over the world. Many ACT drivers are not used to driving in close proximity, they get flustered and angry if a car gets in their personal space. In Sydney, people are quick, efficient and generally courteous, they are much better drivers. Canberra drivers dont develop skills to deal with heavy traffic and the quality of the roads is a factor i think as well as the space.

Many Canberra drivers get genuinely offended if you get within 5 metres of them, even if they dont have to adjust for you, they do drive with a sense of entitlement to space.

When on my motorbike, i am generally much more cautious in Canberra (though i am cautious everywhere on the bike).

I believe on average Canberra drivers are the least skilled i have come across – and it is part attitudinal and part the learning environment (big open roads and very little traffic – although this is changing i see)

i also notice you get treated very differently depending on your car.

i have a couple of supercars as well as mazda 3 (i bought my sister) and a holden. When in a flash car, people go out of their way to make things difficult. When in the mazda or holden, there is nothing like the same treatment.

In Sydney, the supercars get the odd look but thats about it (although out west, they get a lot of invitations to street race), but i never feel people alter their driving because of the make of your car.

i ride a Harley sometimes and people always treat me with courtesy when i am on that puppy.

i think ‘sterile and unfriendly’ is a harsh assessment of Canberrans, but not overly so…in my experience, many people are distant and aloof compared to Sydney, where they are more straight up friendly or straight up rude…

i think people who live out of the ACT for an extended period of time are noticeably different to the lifers too –

it seems like a strange place whenever i visit and getting stranger, but i love it all the same and i proudly call myself a Canberran (but not because of the drivers)

6matt9 6matt9 2:09 pm 07 Jul 10

I don’t think it has anything to do with being spoilt by wide roads or the lack of police presence. Compared to the larger cities here and around the world there is simply a lot of jerks in Canberra. The place is full of them. I don’t know if it’s the demographic or if it’s the lack of entertainment but Canberra is full of people who are really not very nice.

As with most of you posting to this thread, I’ve spent a lot of time in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and a few of the major cities in the US and these places are full of friendly and helpful people. Canberra is not! It is a sterile and unfriendly place to live. Now before I get shot down in flames and told to move to another city – I have met a lot of good people here, made a lot of good friends but I am not the only one with these opinions about Canberra. And it is not just Canberra bashing, it’s based on experience and fact!

I really don’t see how the bad attitudes of Canberra’s motorists can be blamed on wide roads or lack of police or anything other than a jerk with a bad attitude. Let’s take responsibility for our actions people!

Mark Mark 8:06 pm 03 Jul 10

@Jurls – Yeah that sounds quite reasonable, I guess I was thinking of what I do on my own. A lot of drivers do tailgate – once I actually had a motorbike give the worst tailgate (inches away from my bumper). I wasn’t impressed so I slowed down to 40…in a 60 zone (lol)

Jurls Jurls 9:38 pm 02 Jul 10

Mark said :

@Jurls – I know, that happens a fair bit towards Civic particularly. If they really irk me, I just slow down by a km or two and let them froth and fume…

Believe me Mark, if I didn’t have two babies in the car I would have slowed right down. This was out on Majura Road and I didn’t want to risk him actually hitting me, as we were driving at 90kmh which was way too fast for him to be driving that close :s

Mark Mark 8:46 pm 01 Jul 10

@Jurls – I know, that happens a fair bit towards Civic particularly. If they really irk me, I just slow down by a km or two and let them froth and fume…

Mark Mark 8:42 pm 01 Jul 10

Maybe it’s because a lot of drivers here want to be cool and edgy (you know, cutting people off, tailgating to reach a destination one second faster, exercising the limits of a Volvo or Hyandai supercar) …but don’t have the skills to back it up = hence, dangerous driving.

BrassRazoo BrassRazoo 8:02 pm 01 Jul 10

Since when has doing the right thing been so difficult? Some of us have been driving for 40 plus years with a clean licence, much of it in conditions a lot less favourable than we have here. IMO more repeat offenders should be denied the privilege.

justin heywood justin heywood 7:12 pm 01 Jul 10

In my opinion*, Canberra drivers are MUCH worse than most other Australian cities. There is something peculiar about the communal psyche in Canberra. You only have to regularly visit RiotAct to see what the problem is:

Aggressive abuse of anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of acceptable behaviour or thought.
Nitpicking and intolerance of the slightest mistake.
Absolute self-belief in one’s own superiority and entitlement.
A willingness to say and do things that would not be acceptable in a face-to-face relationship.

All these traits are demonstrated here every day, just as they are on our roads.

*5 years a resident, and generalising madly.

cranky cranky 5:40 pm 01 Jul 10

Perhaps our angst-ridden, arogant, domineering, risk taking behaviour as drivers is a result of the constant reduction of our liberties.

We are now treated as probable criminals & terrorists at many points in our daily existence, demonstrated by the CCTV cameras everywhere, body security checks at airports, 100 point identity checks for most financial operations, and cameras monitoring our on-road behaviour.

We are also treated as milch cows. At every turn, business goes to enormous lengths to extract the maximum financial gain during every transaction. The airport may as well have a bloody great sign at the entry saying ‘We WILL get your money’, even if you are there for 5 minutes. Government cannot increase charges, fees and fines quickly enough.

Driving is about the only activity where you can scream at the other (incompetent) drivers, get your own back by getting and staying in front, behaving badly, all simply because on-road behaviour is non personal and poorly policed.

A theory possibly worth further study?

BrassRazoo BrassRazoo 5:06 pm 01 Jul 10

And those who overtake only to turn or veer left a hundred metres up the road. Happens too often to be a sudden change of plan.

As for offending trades vehicles – more than a fair share of the tailgaters, the HiLuxes and Navaras with only one person on board who feel they can whiz along the T lane, or weave in and out doing whatever speed they like on their way home or to the pub at three or four in the afternoon – wonder how many of those drivers are on a special licence to allow them to work?

Jurls Jurls 9:44 am 01 Jul 10

I have only recently arrived in Canberra and I have to say, the drivers here are APPALLING!! Seriously. I’ve been driving for nearly 20 years in the UK and New Zealand and the level of aggression is tenfold here compared to either of those countries. I had actually thought New Zealand was bad, but this place takes the biscuit.

Only yesterday, I was out with my baby twins in the car. I was driving along quite happily at exactly the speed limit, only to be forced to speed up due to a lorry driving right up to my rear bumper. What about keeping a safe distance you ass? I’ve got babies in the car! Selfish dick. I cannot remember the last time I felt such huge road rage, which was probably increased by having my children in the car. I can’t understand though what makes that driver feel he has the right to do that? Being in a lorry he must have seen I had babies in the car. I simply don’t understand it. 🙁

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